Innovation Awards: A great conversation starter with customers

Selling tools on a truck has many demands. One that most tool sales people agree on is being able to engage customers – in the customer’s shop and on the truck. There are many different ways to engage customers.

The first goal many of you work on is getting a conversation going, be it about business or other matters. The second goal is to get the conversation focused on tools.

The current issue of Professional Distributor offers one of the greatest conversation starters ever presented in the magazine – the annual PTEN Innovation Awards, beginning on page 28. The Innovation Awards recognize the most innovative products introduced in the last year to the automotive aftermarket. For 10 years, PTEN, Professional Distributor’s sister magazine that goes to shops and technicians, has recognized the most innovative tools.


Customers await the awards

Every year, shops and technicians look forward to the PTEN Innovation Awards. Technicians want tools that help them get jobs done right the first time in an efficient manner.

The process of gathering nominations, judging the nominees and selecting the winners for the Innovation Awards is a very exciting time for the automotive tool industry. It begins in the spring when nominations are announced and concludes at the fall AAPEX Show where the winners are honored on the trade show floor.

Tool and equipment manufacturers submit products every year, hoping to win the recognition from PTEN’s panel of judges. The nominations include detailed explanations from manufacturers about product features, along with pictures, and in more than half the cases, videos. The judges are veteran technicians and shop owners who bring a “real world” view to evaluating tools.

The judges get busy in the spring evaluating the nominations. Product categories this year include air conditioning, air tools, battery charging/starting, software, diagnostic test equipment, electrical systems, fluid exchange, hand tools, heavy duty tools, inspection tools, jacks and stands, leak detectors, lifts, lighting, power tools, repair information, safety equipment, scan tools, shop equipment, specialty tools, tire and wheel service tools, tool accessories and tool storage.

Judges are asked to rank the nominees for time savings, task simplification, uniqueness, level of improvement over current tool and ease of use.

This year there were 80 nominations, an outstanding number.


Judges relish the task

The judges work tirelessly on these evaluations. PTEN compensates them for their time, but the main reason the judges get involved in this project is their love of tools and the excitement they share finding out how manufacturers are helping them do their jobs better and faster. This much is obvious from the comments the judges make about the tools in the evaluation forms.

Here’s a judge’s comment about LT991 hollow end line taps from Lock Technology, winner in the air conditioning category: “I see two positive things this tool can do. One is that it would save a tremendous amount of time by repairing this tube end as replacing some of these lines are very costly and hard-to-replace at times. The other is its simplicity of use.”

A comment on Inspection Connection’s ProSpec, winner in the computers and software category: “This is a good sales and service aid similar to dealer-level check-in tablets now in use. The conductivity is what will make for the real value and use.”

A comment on ACDelco’s AR12044B Li-ion 18V 3/8” angle impact wrench with digital clutch: “The digital clutch on this ratchet is quite interesting; it allows for safer operation on delicate work.”

This year, the judges displayed keen interest in ways to address new SAE International standards. There was also a lot of interest in tools to address the emerging field of hybrid vehicles. And as always, a lot of interest was shown in diagnostic tools and repair information sources that can help shops work on more vehicles.

Customers are looking to you for ideas about what’s new and exciting. What better way to engage the customers than to let them know which of the products you offer won an Innovation Award?

This issue marks Professional Distributor’s most extensive section on the Innovation Award winners as they appear in the June PTEN magazine. You now have an opportunity to talk about the winning tools just as your customers are learning about them in PTEN magazine.

Now is your chance to share the excitement of the Innovation Awards with your customers.